At SparkFun we continually like to innovate, update, and improve even when it comes to our very own development boards. We have multiple versions of the SparkFun RedBoard in our catalog but none of them in an R3 form factor with a Qwiic connector on it to make I2C easy... until now! The SparkFun RedBoard Qwiic is an Arduino-compatible development board that uses a few of the features that we have loved about Arduinos of the past while also incorporating a few key improvements over the original RedBoard. The best part about the RedBoard Qwiic is that (as the name implies) it utilizes our handy Qwiic Connect System which means no soldering or shields are required to connect it to the rest of your system!
Of course, we didn't just add a Qwiic Connector to the board, lets go over all the new additions that make the SparkFun RedBoard Qwiic unique! With the improved AP2112 voltage regulator, this Reboard gains a more robust 3.3V regulator that provides it more power to daisy chain multiple Qwiic boards and sensors, sourcing up to 600mA of current. To help support the micro USB connector (updated from a Mini USB), the CH340C Serial-USB converter IC allows the RedBoard Qwiic should reduce the need for you to manually install drivers allowing for newer operating systems to automatically recognize and install the drivers for the board. Lastly, we have made sure to add a few solder jumpers to the board. The jumpers for the A4 and A5 pins are tied directly to the I2C bus and can be used to disconnect the logic level converters from the pins while the voltage level jumpers can switch the RedBoard Qwiic from a 3.3V device to a 5V device (no logic level converter needed).
The SparkFun RedBoard Qwiic can be programmed over a USB Micro-B cable using the Arduino IDE: Just plug in the board, select "Arduino UNO" from the board menu and you're ready to upload code. RedBoard Qwiic has all of the hardware peripherals you know and love: 20 Digital I/O pins with 6 PWM pins, UART, SPI and external interrupts. We've also broken out the SDA, SCL and IOREF pins that showed up on the UNO R3, so the RedBoard Qwiic will be compatible with future shields (if you choose to use them). You can power the SparkFun RedBoard Qwiic over USB or through the barrel jack. The on-board power regulator can handle anything from 7 to 15VDC. Check out the related items below for a compatible wall-wart power supply.
The SparkFun Qwiic Connect System is an ecosystem of I2C sensors, actuators, shields and cables that make prototyping faster and less prone to error. All Qwiic-enabled boards use a common 1mm pitch, 4-pin JST connector. This reduces the amount of required PCB space, and polarized connections mean you can’t hook it up wrong.
If a board needs code or communicates somehow, you're going to need to know how to program or interface with it. The programming skill is all about communication and code.
Skill Level: Rookie - You will need a better fundamental understand of what code is, and how it works. You will be using beginner-level software and development tools like Arduino. You will be dealing directly with code, but numerous examples and libraries are available. Sensors or shields will communicate with serial or TTL.
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If it requires power, you need to know how much, what all the pins do, and how to hook it up. You may need to reference datasheets, schematics, and know the ins and outs of electronics.
Skill Level: Rookie - You may be required to know a bit more about the component, such as orientation, or how to hook it up, in addition to power requirements. You will need to understand polarized components.
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Based on 1 ratings:
Massive problems out of the box. Not immediately recognized by Windows, and had to peruse the little traveled inter-spaces just to find out the solution was to download a driver called CH31SER.zip. That took most of my day to find because tech support is not available on the weekend... which is when I received my product (which took 20 days to get to me... not exaggerating). So, minus one star for not being ready to use out of the box, and having a very obscure fix.
Works just like an Arduino once you get it working, so big plus! Here's a star for that.
Qwiic seems to function properly, if you can get the libraries to work the first time. Had some trouble with that, but good thing I'm persistent. Minus a star for inconsistent library function.
I really like the lack of through-pins on the back side. Makes it easy to mount and prototype. It seems faster than the normal Arduino, too, but that could just be my imagination. Tried several standard sketches and some very Arduino specific ones, and it works like a champ. Two stars for compatibility and design!
Overall, I still recommend, but beware if you get one like mine. The driver issues I had were solved, once I found a solution, however it was not a widely recognized solution. Also, the driver problem was due to a serial chip not manufactured in the US, and therefore not part of the normal driver update. This should have been either pre-loaded, or part of the tutorial. Sad face.
I am still happy with the product, but unhappy with my lost day trying to find a solution. Also, not completely happy about the Qwiic problems I have had. Especially, because I bought it for Qwiic connections.
If you are interested in a superior Arduino-type product, then this is definitely what you are looking for, but be aware of potential problems out of the box. If you have said problems, then then be ready to burn some midnight oil fixing them.
Would still buy it again, even knowing all of this.